Lobster: Spiny (Rock Lobster)
Other Common Names:
Spiny lobsters, also known as langouste or rock lobsters are a family (Palinuridae) of about 45 species of achelate crustaceans, in the Decapoda Reptantia. Spiny lobsters are also called crayfish, sea crayfish or crawfish.
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Like true lobsters, spiny lobsters are edible and are an economically significant food source; they are the biggest food export of the Bahamas. The largest spiny lobster on record was over 1 m (3 ft) long and weighed over 11.8 kg (26 lb).
Identification & Biology: Panulirus argus, (Caribbean Spiny Lobster)… Spiny lobsters get their name from the forward-pointing spines that cover their bodies to help protect them from predators. They vary in color from almost white to dark red-orange. Two large, cream-colored spots on the top of the second segment of the tail make spiny lobsters easy to identify. They have long antennae over their eyes that they wave to scare off predators and smaller antennae-like structures called antennules that sense movement and detect chemicals in the water.
Range & Habitat: Commonly referred to as the Florida spiny lobster, the Caribbean spiny lobster inhabits tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.
Adult spiny lobsters make their homes in the protected crevices and caverns of coral reefs, sponge flats, and other hard-bottomed areas. The lobsters spawn from March through August and female lobsters carry the bright orange eggs on their undersides until they turn brown and hatch. Larvae can be carried for thousands of miles by currents until they settle in shallow nearshore areas among seagrass and algae beds. They feed on small snails and crabs. The lobsters are solitary until they reach the juvenile stage, when they begin to congregate around protective habitat in nearshore areas. As they begin to mature, spiny lobsters migrate from the nursery areas to offshore reefs.
Market Description: Most commonly sold just for their tails, the majority of spiny (or rock) lobsters in U.S. restaurants and markets are imported from the Caribbean, Brazil, Western Australia and domestic fisheries off the coasts of California and Florida. Measured in dollars, the spiny lobster fishery is the largest commercial fishery in Florida.
Recommended Preparation: Spiny Lobster has a firm texture and delightful taste that will be the pride of any chef.